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Belfast or London sink?

Whose heart would not melt by the sight of the essential accessory of a country style kitchen, the deep, oblong, porcelain sink? It does not matter whether it is in a Scandinavian country style kitchen or Provance or English, you will find one of those sinks in them. Today’s English country kitchen can not, not to have one. This sink provides a distinctive ambiance to the kitchen which is – as we know – the heart (centre) of the house, however, the minimalist style avoids it and prefers stainless steel sinks.

The story of these sinks has always interested me, but I started to pay more attention to it when my Partner’s brother, explained when he refurbished his kitchen, that he managed to remove and to get rid of “that horrible Belfast sink”, in his house in Kent. I did not know what he meant when he said that, but as soon as he showed me some photos, I had a smile on my face like Mr Grinch when pinching the baubles from a Christmas tree. “Got ya!” So this is how the sink is called, in which Mable used to be in hot water up to her elbows, washing up crockery in the British TV series “You rang, M’lord”!

sink Petworth
A double sink at Petworth House

It is a bit more complicated as I found out there are two types of sinks: Belfast and London. What is the difference then? Not a lot. The Belfast sink used to be deeper (38cm) and had an overflow, while the London sink was shallower and did not have an overflow. Today both sinks have the same dimensions: 61cm long, 48cm wide and 22,5cm deep. And what is the explanation for that? Clean water used to be treasured in London and having no overflow water was saved, whilst in Dublin clean water was readily available from the 1700 and it was not a big issue to waste some. (I am not too sure how clean the water was in London because during the 19th century, the “Great Stink” of 1852, people died of cholera which was caused by drinking dirty water.)

wooden sink at Uppark
Wooden sink at Uppark

We can still see some original Belfast sinks in the kitchens of old estate Mansion Houses in the countryside. It has to be emphasized that this sink was mainly used by the Butler, as it was his duty to wash up the hand painted, expensive china plates and not the kitchen or house maid’s. Therefore, we should have seen Mr Stokes doing the washing up in the Belfast sink and not Mable. This might be something that was not captured properly in the series, but apart from this, “You rang, M’lord?” is a brilliant reflection of the servant’s lives which I am too going to represent in this blog later on.

Modern Belfast Sink
A modern Belfast sink



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